A healthy dose of security is needed every time we use our e-wallets, credit cards or any financial information, because there are always online robbers who will take advantage of a system’s vulnerabilities to try and steal consumers’ hard-earned money.
Fortunately, there are several simple but effective ways to identify and avoid these scammers. You can begin protecting yourself by:
Inspecting the URL
Make sure you are on the right website before you give up your personal information. Study the URL carefully. If you get there via search engine, always check the address bar for confirmation. But if you get there by typing the website, double check the spelling because cybercriminals hope for you to mistype the address that’s why they set up web pages with one letter off from the real site.
Using a Website Checker
You can find out the if the site is real by using online verification services such as:
Enter the URL of a site you’ve visited into their page and you will see all kinds of details about the site. It generates a report and runs the suspicious sites through multiple lists to see if any warning signs pop up.
Google Transparency Report
This can also help to tell if the site is safe or not. Go to the home page, click the icon and select “Google Safe Browsing”. Switch to the “Site Status Tab” and paste the suspected URL on the given URL tab.
Checking the Padlock Icon in the Address Bar
The email address isn’t the only thing you need to look at on the address bar. Don’t forget the padlock icon before the “https://”. If clicked, it will provide a dropdown box that will tell you security information about the site including:
- Certificate validation
- Number of cookies used
- Other site settings
Generally, it tells you if the site is verified and secured. Although nowadays, some bogus sites have been able to replicate the icon and even if the site is deemed secure, it does not mean there is no chance they can get hacked. That is why major browsers, like Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, have security checks in place to make sure that the site can be trusted.
Trusting your Security
If you keep your browser and antivirus updated, these can tell you if you’ve come across a potentially dangerous site by posting a “Not secure site” warning on your screen. Leave the site or close the browser immediately.
Checking the Price
A suspicious price is usually one of the signs that the product is a fake. Although not always the case, if the price is super low compared to what’s in the market, then there is a high probability that you will receive a low quality imitation. Beauty products are hardly sold with high markdown unless it’s a warehouse sale. If the brand is distributed locally the price should drop sitewide or in stores not just in one shop.
Assessing the Quality
As stated above, price can be a good indicator on what quality of the product you’ll receive. Most resellers use stock images or borrowed pictures from official sites which makes it harder for you to decide if it's real or not. Ask the seller if they have a picture of the product out of the box and try to reverse image search that picture. This will help you have a clue of the quality and shape of the product before you press the “Buy” button.
Inspecting the Packaging
Companies spend huge amounts on packaging, so if the package is substandard or if the project has no packaging at all then that’s a clear sign that you have a counterfeit on your hands. Be extra wary for products with expiry dates. Make sure that the sticker or seal is not tampered with or replaced.
Researching the Seller
Most well-established products use their own websites to sell their products. Most brands post a list of approved resellers on their website. An easy way to cross check is to visit the sites of brands to find out where they are available.
Find out what kind of products they used to sell because it can be suspicious that they would suddenly branch off into selling items that are not related to the ones they usually sell. However, a regular supply and high-turnover of a product also doesn’t guarantee that the products are genuine.
Verifying the Payment Method
For online purchases, always check the site’s URL and the lock icon before submitting any payments. Consumers must also be careful with a site that is in English but with a foreign domain, misspellings or grammatical errors, poor image quality or stock photo images, and dead links. Legitimate online resellers tend to request payment thru credit or debit card, sometimes with PayPal. So if they ask for money directly, such as thru bank transfers, that’s an instant red flag.
To those who do not like taking chances, use the cash-on-delivery (COD) payment method. If the product doesn’t arrive, at least you didn’t lose your cash.
Lastly, check the “About us” or “Contact us” page of the site if there is information missing or if the terms and conditions are lacking or blurry.
Reading the Reviews
Scroll through the reviews from fellow buyers. Though some sellers may create fake accounts for glowing reviews, overly positive reviews should also raise a red flag. You can use online tools like Fakespot which help identify which ones are fake and which can be trusted. There are telltale signs which you can look for in the reviews if they are genuine or not. Inspect the publish dates, how close the publish dates are to each other, how similarly-worded the reviews are or how staged the photos look. Also, inspect the reviews for words and phrases such as overuse of first-person singular and a high level of detail.
Vigilance will be one of your weapons against these scammers. Do your due diligence, know your way in and out and you won’t get stuck in a sticky situation. Be informed on what you want to buy, know what red flags you are looking for and scrutinize everything before giving up your personal information.
Staying safe is essential, especially online. Protect yourself from FAKES.